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Indefinite Extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Risks and Reckonings

ACRONYM Report No.7, September 1995

Part II: Extension

The Conference Opens

The Conference opened on 17 April 1995. After agreeing to apply the rules of procedure provisionally, it adopted the agenda as proposed, and elected Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala its President by acclamation. The first session was addressed by the Secretary General of the UN, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Hans Blix, Director General of the IAEA, and US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who welcomed the Conference on behalf of the host country. After welcoming the accession of 178 states to the NPT, Boutros-Ghali applauded recent progress on reducing nuclear arsenals and urged early conclusion of a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT). Arguing that the 'most safe, sure and swift way to deal with the threat of nuclear arms is to do away with them in every regard', the UN Secretary General closed with the rallying cry: 'No more testing. No more production. No more sales or transfers.' He concluded '[R]eduction and destruction of all nuclear weapons and the means to make them should be humanity's great common cause.'

In addition to the 175 states parties recorded as participating in the Conference, 10 non-Party states observed: Angola, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Djibouti, Israel, Oman, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Vanuatu. Palestine was granted observer status. India, in keeping with its policy, did not attend at all.

Furthermore, the UN and IAEA participated, with observer status granted to nine agencies: the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (OPANAL), the European Union (EU), the League of Arab States, the South Pacific Forum (SPF), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the North Atlantic Assembly, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

Altogether 195 non-governmental organisations and research institutes attended, spanning a wide range of interests and perspectives. In addition to NGOs which interacted directly with the NPT Conference, providing information, lobbying, raising questions, and reporting, several NGO Conferences were held close to the UN. These included: the International Citizens' Assembly to Stop the Spread of Weapons (linking gun control in the US with nuclear weapon control internationally); the World Court Project on the illegality of nuclear weapons; and a conference of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation (INESAP) called 'Beyond the NPT'. Greenpeace marked the opening day of the NPT with occupations of two nuclear facilities in the UK: the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston, responsible for Trident warheads, and Sellafield, which reprocesses plutonium, making the link between the commercial and weapons aspects of the nuclear industry. A daily vigil of people committed to fasting for one day or more was held opposite the UN, as part of a worldwide 'Fast to Abolish Nuclear Weapons'. The vigil was joined at times by Conference delegates.

Committee Appointments

President of the Conference
Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka

Secretary General of the Conference
Prvoslav Davini

Main Committee I (disarmament)
Chair: Isaac Ayewah of Nigeria
Vice Chairs: Richard Starr of Australia and Anatoli Zlenko of Ukraine

Main Committee II (safeguards and nuclear weapon free zones)
Chair: André Erdös of Hungary
Vice Chairs: Enrique de la Torre of Argentina and Rajab Sukayri of Jordan

Main Committee III (peaceful uses)
Chair: Jaap Ramaker of Netherlands
Vice Chairs: Yanko Yanev of Bulgaria and Gustavo Alvarez Goyoaga of Uruguay

Drafting Committee
Chair: Tadeusz Strulak of Poland
Vice Chairs Pasi Patokallio of Finland and Nabil Fahmy of Egypt

Credentials Committee
Chair: Andelfo Garcia of Colombia
Vice Chairs: Alyaksandr Sychou of Belarus and Mary Elizabeth Hoinkes of USA

General Debate

The General Debate, in which representatives of 116 Parties delivered statements on the NPT and related issues, took place over seven conference days, 18-25 April, in open session. In addition to identifying extension preference in the majority of cases, most of the key issues were raised here which were later discussed in more detail in the three Main Committees. Many NAM states listed the same issues which had been identified 25 years ago: CTBT, Fissban, cessation of manufacture of nuclear weapons, reduction leading to the elimination of nuclear weapon stockpiles, legally binding security assurances, nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZ), universality, and non-discriminatory technology transfer for 'peaceful uses'. Some of these issues were also addressed by Northern countries. Other important topics included environmental concerns, illegal trafficking in nuclear materials, the transshipment of irradiated nuclear fuel and plutonium, nuclear waste, nuclear cooperation and export controls. Since few statements could cover all issues, omission could not necessarily be construed as satisfaction or lack of interest. Nevertheless, certain priorities emerged.

The majority of statements addressed Article VI compliance, with a few points on Articles I and II. Only Uruguay and Iran questioned nuclear weapon deployment within military alliances, an issue that blew into a major dispute in Main Committee I. Though no country went so far as to attack the 'peaceful uses' foundation of the NPT bargain, deep concerns about the nuclear industry as a whole underlay some of the statements, especially from the Small Island States and a few Northern countries.

The decision by Middle Eastern countries to focus on universality of the NPT and Israel's nuclear programme was clearly observed during the exchange of views. The profound differences of perception regarding the cessation of the arms race and measures to eliminate nuclear weapons, which thwarted attempts at reaching consensus in Main Committee I, were also obvious. In general, the highest levels of dissatisfaction over implementation were found among those states opposed to making the Treaty permanent; but this could not be assumed. A number of states advocating indefinite extension, such as Ireland, the Marshall Islands, the Philippines and Switzerland, were highly critical of aspects of the Treaty. Acknowledging the desire of states parties to maintain pressure on the nuclear-weapon states, several advocates of indefinite extension, including Australia, Canada, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia and Sweden, recommended it as the best way to promote nuclear disarmament. A few argued that nuclear cooperation for non-military purposes would cease if the Treaty were jeopardised.


At the end of this exchange of views, 35 statements had advocated indefinite and unconditional extension and a further 43 (not counting China) supported indefinite extension without reference to unconditional. Thus a total of 78 states had explicitly advocated indefinite extension in their statements. Of the remaining 38: seven Arab states opposed indefinite extension without universality; three statements were simply against indefinite extension; and 18 gave no preference. Alternative proposals were made by a further 10 states.

During the preceding few years 'indefinite and unconditional extension' had become promoted vigorously by the US, Russia and their allies. Their intention was to institute this as the true meaning of indefinite, but to some countries it seemed to have become a separate option, warning off criticism and pressure. Zimbabwe, for example, viewed the linkage as tantamount to amendment of the first extension option, while Zambia, in supporting indefinite extension, explicitly dissociated itself from 'the unconditional aspect of this extension.' Many who advocated indefinite extension without reference to unconditional did so deliberately, while arguing for stronger or further measures towards full implementation. Some opposed the specific linkage between indefinite and unconditional extension, fearing this would be regarded by the nuclear-weapon states as a carte blanche for nuclear business as usual. For others, the omission may have had little or no political relevance. France had made a statement on behalf of 15 EU states and six others (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) strongly supporting the indefinite and unconditional extension of the Treaty. Yet when EU states came to speak for themselves, several (Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain and Sweden) omitted the term unconditional.

Recognising that the linkage of indefinite with unconditional was having a counterproductive effect among many uncommitted parties, an informal attempt was made to distinguish between 'structural conditions' and recommendations. Structural conditions, by which the validity of the Treaty's extension would be dependent upon fulfilling certain prerequisites were opposed by the Northern states as too great a threat to the stability of the NPT regime. Recommendations, such as programmes or steps for compliance, would not necessarily constitute any legal threat to the Treaty if not fulfilled as prescribed. The distinction was not precise, dislike of the linkage spanned all groupings, and in supporting indefinite extension, many states deliberately left it out and argued for further action. Some statements which left it in, such as Switzerland's, made very strong recommendations as well. Three of the plenary statements counted as being in favour of indefinite extension were very grudging: Brunei Darussalam said it was willing 'to go along with' indefinite extension; Bahrain described a framework for action, including universality, that 'would provide an appropriate climate for...indefinite extension'; while Guyana indicated merely that it was 'not opposed' to indefinite extension. Others, such as Ukraine, gave support to indefinite extension, but emphasised that they would consider other proposals consistent with making the Treaty more effective. South Africa, which had argued the merits of a long term rolling extension at the Fourth PrepCom, surprised many by backing indefinite extension. This support, however, was given 'in principle', together with a very strong proposal for strengthening the review process and increasing accountability. South Africa specified that these would 'not be conditions which could lead to the termination of the Treaty', but a 'lodestar' and a 'yardstick' for measuring progress.

Among those which stated an alternative preference, China, for the first time, explained what its advocacy of a 'smooth extension' meant: either an indefinite extension or a series of rolling fixed periods of no less than 25 years duration for each period. Sri Lanka, non-committal because of its role as President of the Conference, advocated a 'long term' extension. Libya and Syria said they could not accept any extension unless Israel acceded to the NPT, suggesting that the Conference could be suspended so that a decision could be taken after certain conditions, especially universality, had been met. Egypt, which argued against indefinite extension if this would entrench the imbalance and status quo in the Middle East, also held open the possibility of suspending the Conference to achieve certain objectives before taking a final decision on extension. Several other Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen and Jordan, expressed concerns about Israel, but left their positions ambiguous or said they supported the 'Arab position'.

Indonesia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Thailand advocated rolling fixed periods, but without stating a preference on duration. Iran said that the NPT should 'eventually be extended indefinitely' and opposed a single fixed period, thereby throwing its lot in with advocates of the third option. However, in Indonesia's original formulation, further extension would be conditional: "At specified periods the nuclear-weapon states would be obliged to achieve specific agreements leading to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. These should constitute either integral parts of the extension decisions or [be] set forth explicitly in separate binding agreements...".

Kenya and Venezuela backed the 'Venezuela Option' originally formulated by Ambassador Adolfo Taylhardat. This provided for the entire Treaty to be 'rolled over' for a further 25 years, after which there would be another Review and Extension Conference with the same three choices. Only Nigeria backed a single fixed period extension 'to be determined by this Conference'. (At meetings between January and April, Ambassador Ayewah had indicated preference for a period of 10-15 years, but this had never been made formal.) In its statement, however, Nigeria averred that the 'the Treaty should not lapse at the end of the fixed period', a position inconsistent with the majority of legal interpretations, including Nigeria's own, that a single fixed period extension would inevitably result in termination of the NPT at the end of the period. Some international lawyers had discounted the Venezuela option as falling outside the legal options. In its earliest formulation, the Venezuela option had been presented as a form of fixed period option, but this came to be modified as a form of the third option, with potentially a series of 25 year roll-overs, unless any particular Conference chose to extend indefinitely (or, equally possible, halt the process with a single period, thereby bringing the Treaty to an end).

Proposals on Extension:

116 plenary speeches

Indefinite and unconditional: 35, including US, Russia, France and UK

Indefinite: 44 (includes China)

Single fixed period: Nigeria

Rolling extension of successive fixed periods: Indonesia, Iran, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Thailand. China would accept this option if the periods were at least 25 years.

Venezuelan option - a 'rollover' of the Treaty with the Article X.2 options of further extension available after another 25 years: Venezuela, Kenya

'Arab position' opposing indefinite extension without universality: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria. Libya and Syria opposed 'any extension' without Israel's accession. Egypt and Syria advocated suspending the Conference.

Against indefinite (excluding Arab League): 3

No preference stated: 18

'Long term': Sri Lanka

These numbers, when added to the states among the remaining 59 participating parties which had made public or definite commitments to indefinite extension, convinced the Conference President that there was a majority of states parties for indefinite extension of the NPT. This realisation played a major part in the subsequent strategy for achieving a successful outcome.

Nuclear Disarmament

An overwhelming majority of statements raised issues concerning nuclear disarmament as priority concerns. While many welcomed the US-Russia arms control agreements of the past eight years and substantial reductions in warhead numbers, non-nuclear-weapon countries also stressed the need for further and irreversible progress.
Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race
Russia, the US, and France (on behalf of 21 European states including the UK) hailed the end of the arms race, as did Australia and Iceland. Others were not quite so sure. Bangladesh said 'the doctrine of nuclear deterrence should be unambiguously disavowed' and referred to 'disconcerting reports' that more funds still go to weapon programmes than to reduction and dismantling of nuclear weapons. Belgium called the first stage after the NPT entered into force 'over-armament' but hoped that the current 'real reduction in arsenals' will be 'vigorously pursued'. Guyana said that the failure of the nuclear-weapon states to implement more 'decisive disarmament measures' called 'the validity of their commitments into question.' Indonesia acknowledged the significant advances, but said 'they did not go far enough'. Jordan pointed out that while the nuclear arms race may have ceased between the superpowers, it was continuing at regional level. Nigeria said that none of the concrete disarmament measures envisaged had actually been accomplished after 25 years: 'if the arms race has abated due to the transformation in the international system, we are yet to see the commencement of a concrete step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.' Tom Ikimi further argued that even after the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) II, the major nuclear-weapon states would have 'more than enough warheads to wipe out human civilization', a point which others endorsed. Switzerland noted 'relative success' in curbing horizontal proliferation, but called progress on nuclear disarmament 'far from satisfactory', saying that the doctrine of nuclear deterrence was 'outdated'.
After many years without a negotiating mandate, the CD began negotiating a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty in January 1994. Progress in these negotiations was applauded by many. However, concerns were expressed over the pace and timing of the test ban negotiations. Kenya worried that the CD had not 'produced much result' on the CTBT, the Philippines said 'nothing substantial had been accomplished' in the CD, Switzerland was 'disappointed by the little progress reached so far' and warned that 'exceptions to the principle of a complete test-ban is...incompatible with the spirit of Article VI of the NPT... [and would] raise certain doubts as to the commitment to renounce all nuclear test explosions forever.' Viet Nam said a CTBT was presently 'a hope rather than a reality' and Zimbabwe referred disparagingly to the 'current snail's pace' of CTB negotiations. Sweden argued that there were no longer technical obstacles to achieving a CTBT: 'What is needed now is political will.' Papua New Guinea said that the most immediate concern for the Pacific Island States was to end nuclear testing and prevent transshipment of nuclear wastes 'now, not tomorrow or in the next 25 years.' In the plenary speeches, only Argentina called for a CTBT by 1995, although this was still the official position of the NAM. Several Western states pushed for this date in Main Committee I.

Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands were particularly critical of three of the nuclear-weapon states - France, the UK and the US - for having refused so far to sign the protocols of the Treaty of Rarotonga, which established the nuclear weapon free zone in the South Pacific. As described by Fiji, Protocol 1 would commits France, the UK and the US to apply the Treaty in their respective territories in the zone; Protocol 2 provides undertaking not to use or threaten to use a nuclear explosive device against the parties to the Treaty, nor against any territory within the zone; Protocol 3 would prohibit the testing of any nuclear explosive device anywhere within the zone. Welcoming that China and Russia have signed Protocols 2 and 3, Fiji and the others - joined by New Zealand - urged the remaining nuclear-weapon states to adhere likewise. The Pacific States laid special emphasis on Protocol 3's obligation not to conduct any nuclear testing within the region, in light of persistent rumours that France was considering a resumption of its nuclear test programme in the Tuamotu Islands of Polynesia.

Article V of the NPT enshrines a right of non-nuclear-weapon states to 'potential benefits from any peaceful applications of nuclear explosions'. Fiji, Thailand and Guyana all referred to their rights under Articles IV and V, although endorsement of peaceful nuclear explosions (PNE) does not seem to have been intended. Finland called Article V 'a dead letter, a written monument to the false hopes of the 1960s.'

Generally, however, the fact that negotiations on a CTBT were proceeding at the CD meant that this issue, which had been a major stumbling block to consensus at past review conferences, was not a primary focus during the Conference. This was perhaps aided by the withdrawal of the 10 year opt-out clause by the US in January, and by France and Britain dropping their scope requirement for exceptions on 6 April.

Fissile Materials Ban
Following a unanimous resolution in the UN General Assembly in December 1993, the CD had managed to agree a mandate to negotiate a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices on 23 March 1995. Though an ad hoc Committee had not yet been convened at the CD, most states at the NPT expected that this would be done early in June. However, the mandate had been hard fought, particularly over the question of existing stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU), so many countries chose to put their policies on record during the General Debate.

The Northern states usually welcomed the mandate and urged commencement of negotiations on a fissile materials 'cut-off' convention ('Fissban'), though several also raised concerns about nuclear trafficking and terrorism. The US underlined that it had already halted production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive purposes, Russia pledged to do so soon, and the UK announced that it had now ceased production. The US further pledged to remove 200 metric tons of fissile material from the stockpile 'so that it never again could be used for nuclear weapons.' The bulk of the 200 tons is reported to be HEU rather than plutonium, making the removal important, but not as significant militarily as some listeners first believed. Nevertheless, the announcement had political weight, as the first time that the US had transferred material from the military stockpiles to IAEA safeguards, from which it could not be re-used for future nuclear weapons. France, on behalf of the EU, made only passing reference, saying that the Fissban would 'have to be universal and verifiable to help non-proliferation'. China concentrated rather on repeating its call to the other nuclear-weapon states to negotiate a 'convention on the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons'.

Many countries, including Algeria, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Ireland, Libya, Malaysia and Viet Nam, called for the inclusion of stockpiles, a formal position of NAM parties to the NPT (but not of the G21, which includes India). Germany went further than the Western Group position, arguing not only that 'no more fissionable material must be allowed to be produced for weapon purposes' but also that 'weapons-grade fissionable material from dismantled weaponry must not be used to build new weapons and must not fall into the hands of nuclear smugglers'. Germany also called for an international plutonium regime to administer the necessary controls.

Though most referred to fissile materials for weapons purposes, there was some confusion as to whether those opposing the stockpiling of 'weapons-grade fissile materials' meant to include the commercial plutonium trade. Sri Lanka referred to the 'mounting problem of plutonium stocks' which, it said, would have to be addressed 'at some point of time'. Indonesia argued for a ban on weapon-usable fissionable materials, a position undoubtedly meant to include separated plutonium from commercial reprocessing. The Marshall Islands said they supported Germany in wanting cessation of production of 'weapons grade fissionable material' and an international plutonium regime. Germany does not at present support a ban on commercial reprocessing, as implied in this endorsement, and it is not clear how broad the Marshall Islands' statement meant to go. Neither Mexico nor Egypt, which had advocated in the CD a complete ban on the production and stockpiling of plutonium and HEU for civil or military purposes, took up this issue at the NPT Conference.

Several states, including Denmark, Germany, Madagascar, Moldova and New Zealand, expressed concerns about nuclear trafficking or 'the unauthorised and illicit transfers of nuclear material', with Moldova suggesting attaching a 'statute' on this to the NPT. Ireland, which mentioned the UK facilities Sellafield as of particular environmental concern, also stressed the need for 'non-nuclear-weapon states to avoid stockpiling plutonium in excess of normal civil operational requirements for peaceful nuclear programmes', a reference to Japan and its plutonium trade with Sellafield and La Hague.

Norway called for concrete steps 'to establish a regime that would include declarations of stockpiles of all weapons grade materials, accompanied by other appropriate transparency measures.' Raising particular concerns about the safe and secure storage and handling of nuclear materials, Norway added that 'more effective measures should be agreed upon for registering, managing and monitoring existing stocks of plutonium...'. Some NAM states, notably Mexico, did not mention stockpiles at all, although Mexico is one of the originators of a NAM statement to the NPT Third PrepCom (NPT/CONF.1995/ PC.III/13) which called for a 'Treaty banning the production and stockpiling of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices'.

Further Action on Article VI
In addition to banning testing and fissile materials production, views on what would bring about full implementation of Article VI fell into two distinct camps, with some bridges or tunnels between. Britain, France and the US spoke of nuclear disarmament, at best, as 'an ultimate goal'. In this they were joined by several - but by no means all - of the Northern states. Russia said it was committed to the 'final goal of complete elimination of nuclear arms' and repeated President Yeltsin's proposal for a Treaty on nuclear security and strategic stability. The NAM viewed nuclear disarmament as an objective, and argued for a programme of action, time-bound framework or concrete steps to achieve it. So did some Western states, while others became confused over whether to characterise nuclear disarmament as a goal or a process. Sweden argued that 'it is reasonable to demand a specific time schedule for further nuclear disarmament' and pointed out that a precedent for such a schedule has already been set by the START Treaties. Sweden underlined that further negotiations should involve 'all nuclear-weapon states', a very pointed reference to its EU partners France and Britain. Switzerland wanted the P-5 to agree by the year 2000 'on a time-frame for progressive substantial reductions of their arsenals'. Ireland called for the 'complete abolition of nuclear weapons and concrete steps taken to this end'. Argentina argued that whereas the 'international community is responsible for preventing the horrors of the use of nuclear weapons...the nuclear-weapon states are responsible for their total elimination.' Bangladesh reminded the nuclear-weapon states that they 'cannot continue to emphasise how essential nuclear arms are and at the same time expect other states to forgo them forever.' It was significant that, though the nuclear weapons states came with a list of 'accomplishments' for progress in the recent past, they offered nothing concrete for the future.

Security Assurances

Security assurances have been raised since the NPT was first negotiated, as states preparing to forego nuclear weapons for their own security wanted to ensure that they would not be left vulnerable to attack by nuclear weapons. In general, security assurances are characterised as negative or positive. Positive Security Assurances (PSA) constitute a guarantee from the nuclear-weapon states that they would take action to support a non-nuclear-weapon state in the event of an attack or threat of attack by a nuclear-armed adversary. These were first enshrined in the 1968 UN Security Council Resolution UNSC 255 (1968). On 11 April, just before the NPT Conference opened, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution proposed by all five nuclear-weapon states, UNSC 984 (1995), which updated the 1968 agreements (see Appendix IV).

Negative Security Assurances (NSA) guarantee that the nuclear-weapon states will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-armed adversary. Again, just before the NPT Conference opened, on 6 April each of the P-5 presented the CD with its updated individual declaration of assurances. For the first time, Russia, France, the UK and the US had harmonised their unilateral declarations, making them consistent with each other. These four nuclear-weapon powers qualify their assurances, extending them only to parties to the NPT or an equivalent treaty (such as the Treaty of Tlatelolco) and exempting any state in alliance with a nuclear-weapon state at the time of an attack. China refused to harmonise its negative security assurances with the other four, because its commitments are more far reaching. China reiterated its long held assurance not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon state or nuclear free zone, a position much closer to that demanded by the NAM. Security assurances also came to be linked with a further pledge of 'no-first-use', by which the nuclear-weapon states would commit not to be the first to use nuclear weapons under any circumstance. Only China has given this commitment. The USSR had made the assurance, but following its break-up, Russia adopted a policy similar to that of NATO, and revoked its no-first-use commitment. NATO, and its three nuclear-weapon powers - the US, the UK and France - insist that a policy of no-first-use would undermine the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. The theory of extended deterrence relies on preventing attack or invasion by threatening the possibility of nuclear retaliation against any aggressor, whether nuclear armed or not. A policy of no-first-use would undercut this and undermine preemptive warfighting doctrine.

UN Security Council resolution UNSC 984 (1995) recognised the 'legitimate concern' of non-nuclear-weapon states regarding their security, and affirmed that 'any aggression with the use of nuclear weapons would endanger international peace and security'. It noted with 'appreciation' the separate assurances given by each of the nuclear-weapon states not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons (NSA). The resolution then laid out the procedure by which complaints from non-nuclear-weapon states of aggression with nuclear weapons would be handled by the Security Council, procedures for action 'to provide assistance' and for Member States 'to take appropriate measures in response to a request from the victim for technical, medical, scientific or humanitarian assistance...'. The penultimate paragraph reaffirmed 'the inherent right, recognised under Article 51 of the [UN] Charter, of individual and collective self defence if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.'

The nuclear-weapon states, which had been under considerable pressure to provide something better than the 1968 assurances, were optimistic that their update would be welcomed. The EU statement, covering 21 countries, called UNSC 984 (1955) 'a considerable advance' saying that 'for the first time it provides a collective, global and concrete response to a major problem.' Several others, including Canada, Turkey, Ukraine, Argentina, Liberia and Maldives seemed to agree. However, a large number of parties, including Algeria, Bangladesh, Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mozambique, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, Switzerland, Uganda, Viet Nam, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Yemen, said that UNSC 984 (1995) fell short of what they had hoped for. Venezuela summed up the scepticism felt by many states, saying that the measure 'would have had a much greater impact had it been adopted long before and not as a rearmost effort to create favourable conditions on the eve of this Conference.'

The P-5 pointed to Resolution 984 as the first time negative security assurances by all five were included in one resolution and that the UK, France, Russia and the US had harmonised their assurances. The problem for the non-nuclear-weapon states was that this was achieved by Russia taking the backwards step of revoking the USSR's policy of no-first-use in order to come into line with NATO's position. The five had been unable to harmonise their negative security assurances because the US, Russia, France and the UK (the P-4) refused to commit to no-first-use and wanted to specify that they applied only to non-nuclear-weapon states party to the NPT, who were not members of an aggressive alliance with a nuclear-weapon state. While many non-nuclear-weapon states welcomed UNSC 984 as a 'first step' or 'an improvement', many also called for legally binding, multilaterally negotiated and unconditional assurances. Some, such as Bangladesh, underlined that 'ultimate security' can only be attained through the 'complete elimination of nuclear weapons'. Exempting China from its criticisms, Egypt called UNSC 984 'fraught with conditions and reservations'.

Nuclear Cooperation and Export Controls

Article IV enshrines the right to the development, production and uses of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, 'without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II' of the Treaty. In addition to the IAEA safeguards system described in Article III, the Zangger Committee and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (also known as the London Club) had developed in the early 1970s to oversee that the exports of nuclear material, equipment and technology did not violate the NPT, particularly Articles I and II. However, a number of NAM states, notably Iran, have argued that these export control regimes are biased and discriminatory in their operation, and therefore violate Article IV of the Treaty.

In the General Debate, nuclear cooperation was discussed far more often by NAM states than by others, usually with concern that access or assistance were inadequate. Bangladesh argued that suppliers groups should be transparent, and not impose 'arbitrary and discriminatory restraints'. Botswana said that it did not want a 'free for all scenario... [but access] without prejudice.' Panama criticised Article IV implementation, especially in the health, industrial and agricultural sectors. Making a less inflammatory speech than Western officials had expected, Iran criticised 'lack of compliance' by the nuclear-weapon states, on 'Articles I, IV and VI'. In particular, Iran accused unnamed nuclear-weapon states of violating Article I by supplying 'generously, materials and know-how to Israel which has enabled this regime to develop nuclear weapons...'. By contrast with this provisioning of a state outside the NPT, Iran contended, 'non-nuclear-weapon states parties to the Treaty have been systematically deprived by developed countries...of exercising their prerogatives as stipulated in [the] Preamble and Article IV.' As part of an eight-point programme for better implementation of the NPT (covering CTBT, Fissban, NWFZs and so on) Iran specified that 'Secretive groupings with restrictive membership undermining the Treaty such as [the] London Club should phase out'. Iran called for 'a body that represents the entire membership of the Treaty' to deal with the NPT's operation and implementation, saying that its conduct should be transparent.

Finland exemplified the common Northern position, when it argued that full-scope safeguards and 'national export licensing... [flow] naturally out of our general obligation under the Treaty not to assist in any way in the acquisition of nuclear weapons by anyone.' The UK went further: '...controls are necessary if suppliers are to be confident that their exports will not be misused. They bite only on countries, like Iran, about whose ultimate intentions there are widespread doubts.' This drew a furious response from the country so named. Iran accused the UK of spreading discord with 'unjustified and unsubstantiated remarks'. Reiterating its criticisms of 'secret decisions after closed debates', Iran accused the UK by implication of having violated Article I, and finished: 'Certain powers considered themselves to be above the law and were claiming the right to judge the intentions of others, which was in absolute contradiction with the spirit of the Treaty.'

China said that it adhered to three principles on nuclear export: it should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, be subject to IAEA safeguards, and should not be retransferred to a third party without China's consent. China argued that 'the prevention of nuclear weapon proliferation should facilitate rather than impede the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.' Croatia said it backed indefinite extension as the 'best available guarantee...for unimpeded development of research, production and use of nuclear energy...'. Some Western states, including Greece, Australia and Canada, argued that 'peaceful nuclear cooperation' would be seriously inhibited if the NPT were not indefinitely extended.

A number of statements omitted to endorse nuclear cooperation, while some countries sounded a note of caution. The Czech Republic said that not only had nuclear cooperation 'not been unduly hampered by the Treaty [but] if anything, such cooperation had developed too liberally'. Acknowledging that 'peaceful nuclear cooperation over the years has not materialised to the extent certain states might have hoped for,' the Netherlands referred to the 'limitations of the use of the atom.' Saying that the Dutch were reappraising the usefulness of nuclear energy in their industry, the statement questioned whether 'the world can benefit from nuclear energy in an ecologically and economically sound and sustainable manner.' The UK also acknowledged that the economic benefits from nuclear energy imagined in the 1960s had not come to pass. South Africa argued for 'sustainable development' to be a guiding principle for all peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and proposed a special meeting of SAGTAC (the Standing Advisory Group on Technical Assistance and Cooperation) to discuss the 'problem areas in the field of nuclear technology transfer.'


France, on behalf of 21 European states, said that IAEA safeguards had developed a 'better capability to detect possible clandestine activities' since discovering 'a sizeable secret nuclear programme in Iraq.' Very few countries mentioned Iraq and the DPRK explicitly in their plenary speeches, but several Northern states called for safeguards to be strengthened to meet 'recent challenges'. This was interpreted as referring to the problems of safeguards violations by Iraq and DPRK, as well as recent concerns about nuclear smuggling. Several NAM statements alluded to the formal NAM position of advocating full-scope safeguards on all nuclear activities and facilities (i.e. including the military facilities of the P-5). Sri Lanka commented that 'less than one third of plutonium stocks and even a lesser quantity of enriched uranium is under international safeguards', underlining that '[A]n abundance of unguarded bomb material could be as deadly as the abundance of bomb making capacity.' Support was also expressed for the IAEA's '93+2' programme for strengthening safeguards and extending them to verify undeclared facilities, with some calls for more resources for the IAEA to enable it to fulfil its mandate more effectively.

Transshipment and Dumping of Nuclear Materials

A number of statements, significantly from members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), raised the environmental and security issues of nuclear testing, transshipment of nuclear materials and nuclear waste dumping. Trinidad and Tobago, as Chair of AOSIS, expressed concern 'regarding the potentially catastrophic effects of the marine transport of irradiated nuclear fuel, plutonium and highly radioactive wastes' and argued for a 'comprehensive environmental impact assessment' and for 'strict liability' to be assumed by the countries directly involved in the shipments, to cover damage and recovery of lost consignments. The Marshall Islands suggested using Article IV to find 'a safe and lasting solution to cleaning up and restoring all nuclear contaminated areas around the world'. Papua New Guinea pointed out that '[t]he Small Island States of the Pacific depend entirely on their natural environments for survival,' arguing that 'the on-going testing, transshipment of nuclear materials such as plutonium and dumping of nuclear wastes within our region constitutes a direct threat to our survival and inhibits our long term goals of achieving sustainable development.' This environmental relationship was also described by the Solomon Islands, with emphasis on the refusal by France, the UK and the US to sign the protocols of the Treaty of Rarotonga. Argentina called for a strengthening of legislation on the physical protection of nuclear materials, making critical reference to the recent shipment (France to Japan) which 'placed our country in a delicate situation'.

Environmental Concerns

In addition to concerns raised about nuclear testing, transshipment of materials and nuclear waste dumping, a few countries emphasised environmental concerns. Ireland reminded delegates that knowledge of the 'risks to health and safety is far greater than it was when the NPT was negotiated.' Iceland and Ireland both made specific reference to the discharge of radioactive waste into the marine environment, with Ireland condemning the contamination of the Irish Sea by the UK reprocessing plants at Sellafield. Referring to 459 Soviet nuclear tests conducted at Semipalatinsk, of which 113 were conducted in the atmosphere, Kazakhstan testified that 500,000 of its people had been subjected to radiation over a period of 43 years. Ukraine and Belarus spoke of Chernobyl, where the 'so-called peaceful atom went wild'. Belarus commented that 'we know from experience that, once confronted with the consequences of nuclear holocaust, a state should not be too hopeful about getting effective outside assistance to counter the plight it finds itself in.'

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones

Article VII of the NPT endorses 'regional treaties in order to assure the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories.' Two nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZ) have been established so far, with a third, covering Africa, close to agreement. The 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco established a NWFZ in Latin America and the Caribbean. The 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga established a NWFZ in the South Pacific. Great satisfaction was expressed that, with accession this year by the last few remaining countries, including Cuba, the Treaty of Tlatelolco would finally enter into force. As already mentioned, several South Pacific countries called on the UK, France and the US to adhere to the relevant protocols of the Treaty of Rarotonga, with pointed emphasis on refraining from nuclear testing.

With reference to NATO expansion and the risk of a wider geographical area subject to nuclear weapon deployment, Belarus raised the possibility of a NWFZ in Central Europe. Others called for a NWFZ in South East Asia, with later mention of a Central Asian NWFZ as well. Many statements also welcomed the near-conclusion of an African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty, made possible by South Africa's dismantling of its nuclear weapons and accession to the NPT in 1991. Last minute difficulties arose, which spilled over into the NPT discussions, over whether the map identifying the African nuclear weapon free zone should include the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, claimed by Mauritius, but used as a nuclear and strategic base by the US under UK auspices. This has reportedly been resolved in the draft treaty approved by the Organisation of African Unity in June.

The most important and critical context in which Article VII was raised during the General Debate related to the Middle East. The Arab States, joined by others, criticised Israel's obstruction of a Middle East nuclear weapon free zone, as well as its status outside the NPT, as a violation of the principle of universality. Since the statements on a Middle East NWFZ and universality covered similar ground, they will be addressed in the following section.

Universality and Regional Security

Of the handful of United Nations members still outside the NPT, three have military nuclear programmes: Israel, India and Pakistan. Although South Asian security represents a major challenge to the non-proliferation regime, it was barely alluded to in the General Debate. Israel's nuclear weapons were pre-eminently highlighted as a threat to Middle Eastern security by a number of states, including Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, with oblique references by Algeria, Bahrain, Morocco and others. Kuwait described the recent Arab League statement on universality, including 'Support of the Arab States for the NPT, its objectives and the realisation of its universality without exception; securing peace and stability in the Middle East requires the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction; Israel's refusal to accede to the Treaty and to subject its nuclear facilities to the system of assurances constitutes a menace to the regional security and the treaty credibility.'

Syria and Libya said that they could not agree to any extension of the NPT without the accession of Israel. In a deliberately disingenuous statement, Syria appeared to argue for Israel's accession as a sixth nuclear-weapon state: 'If Israel is a nuclear-weapons state - which indeed it is - it must officially acknowledge that it possesses such weapons and accept the international responsibilities emanating from that fact. If Israel does not possess any nuclear weapons, why does it refuse to accede to the NPT...?' Libya called for Israel's accession and 'a clear and accurate timetable...to dismantle all the nuclear weapons possessed by Israel.'

Referring to 'the existence of a nuclear programme outside the scope of the IAEA full-scope safeguards, on our eastern borders', Egypt proposed suspending the Conference until universality could be achieved saying that 'the entrenchment of the de facto status quo by the indefinite application of the Treaty to all the Middle East countries, with the exception of Israel, constitutes a serious imbalance threatening not only the security of the region but also its stability.' Calling the refusal by 'certain states' to accede to the NPT an 'insurmountable obstacle', Jordan identified four benefits to regional security that would follow from Israel's adherence. Saudi Arabia called for the Conference to 'endorse making the Middle East a region free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical and biological.'

Non-Governmental Organisations

Over 700 representatives of 195 NGOs, research institutes and interested groups attended the NPT Conference. They represented a spread of opinion as wide as that of the NPT parties. While a few represented the nuclear industry or were closely associated with their government's policies, almost all the NGOs opposed nuclear weapons, with a significant majority also critical of nuclear power. A common theme took security as its starting point, arguing for a wider understanding that included environmental, health and economic security as well as the inalienable right to life, liberty and dignity. According to this, nuclear weapon production, deployment or use were incompatible with genuine security. On extension, NGO opinion ranged from support for indefinite to advocacy of a five year rolling extension, with all options in between.

One potentially important NGO development was the formation of the NGO Abolition Caucus on 28 April. In a statement supported by more than 60 organisations, the Caucus called for the 'definite and unconditional abolition of nuclear weapons'. Below are the main points from the Abolition Caucus declaration:

  • a nuclear weapons abolition convention to be concluded by the year 2000, requiring the phased elimination of nuclear weapons within a time-bound framework;
  • an unconditional pledge from the nuclear-weapon states not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons;
  • a zero threshold CTBT;
  • withdrawal and disablement of deployed nuclear weapon systems and no further deployments;
  • international monitoring of all weapon-usable nuclear materials and facilities;
  • closure of all nuclear test sites and prohibition of all nuclear weapons research, design, development and testing;
  • more nuclear weapon free zones;
  • recognition of the illegality of threat or use of nuclear weapons;
  • establishment of an international energy agency to promote and support the development of sustainable and environmentally safe energy sources;
  • the participation of citizens and NGOs in planning and monitoring the process of nuclear weapons abolition.

Because the Abolition Caucus opposed indefinite extension of the NPT, many other organisations and individuals who supported its demands, chose not to sign. Some of these argued that the stability of a permanent - or at least a long term - Treaty was indispensable to the fulfilment of its objectives, including nuclear disarmament. Others argued that since the NGOs did not have a vote, they should concentrate on the issues and not the extension. However, all or most of the points above were endorsed by the majority of NGOs attending the Conference.

Extending the Treaty

In addition to the support given to different extension proposals in the General Debate, a few speeches contributed ideas on strengthening implementation, which were taken up by Ambassador Dhanapala and incorporated into the final extension decision 'package'.

South Africa's Proposals

The first speech of the morning of Wednesday 19 April was undoubtedly the most influential for the outcome of the NPT Conference. It was delivered by the Foreign Minister of the Republic of South Africa, Alfred Nzo. From the buzz of excitement or tension which ran through the Conference Chamber, it is clear that at least some of the delegates had immediately grasped the potential of South Africa's proposals.

Foreign Minister Nzo began by recalling that 'Democratic South Africa is a responsible possessor of advanced technologies... [with a] non-proliferation and arms control policy...integral to our commitment to democracy, human rights, sustainable development, social justice and environmental protection.' He said this was the context that turned South Africa 'away from the edge of the nuclear weapons abyss.' Regarding the NPT as a 'major advance towards nuclear disarmament', he said that South Africa believed it 'should not be placed in jeopardy, but that the review and extension process should strengthen, not weaken the non-proliferation regime.' He continued: 'South Africa therefore in principle supports the view that the NPT should be extended indefinitely. The termination of the Treaty - whether this comes about by placing conditions on its future existence or by extending it for a fixed period - is not an acceptable option...what would happen if, for one or other reason, the conditions were not met.'

Having argued that the review and extension process 'should not damage the Treaty', Nzo advocated a mechanism to address the legitimate concerns many countries had about implementation of the NPT. He proposed strengthening the review process with two mutually interacting components: adoption of a set of 'Principles for Nuclear-Non Proliferation and Disarmament' and a Committee charged with studying the review process and making concrete recommendations on improving it.

In that first plenary speech, South Africa described its idea for the Principles to 'set out the general obligations and goals which states parties would strive for' taking into account the changed international situation. The Principles 'would not be an amendment of the Treaty; they would rather be a lodestar which would focus attention on the importance of these goals.' He said they should be dynamic, and capable of adapting to meet changing circumstances, not 'conditions which could lead to the termination of the Treaty, but...the yardstick by which all the states parties can measure their non-proliferation and disarmament achievements.' He identified eight broad areas for the Principles:

' - Restatement of the commitment to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons;

- Strengthening and full adherence to IAEA safeguard agreements;

- Access to nuclear material and technology for peaceful purposes;

- Progress made in the Cut-Off Convention negotiations;

- Progress made in the reduction of nuclear arsenals;

- Progress made in the negotiations for the establishment of a CTBT;

- Commitment to the establishment of regional nuclear weapon free zones;

- Enforcing binding security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon states.'

South Africa then outlined some ideas for how the review committee could work. Although suggesting that the committee could be open-ended or consist of a representative group of states parties, South Africa favoured an open-ended committee, meeting at fixed intervals between Review Conferences. Recognising that the rigidity of the Main Committee structure was not always conducive to problem solving, South Africa proposed supplementing this structure with sub-committees which could study specific issues, such as methods to achieve universality; the viability of a nuclear weapon production ban; disarmament issues beyond a CTBT and Fissban, and so on. Nzo suggested that the review committee could report - making concrete recommendations - to an additional PrepCom session in the run-up to the next Review Conference, in 2000.

South Africa then presented its general position on implementing the Treaty. While welcoming US and Russian progress in arms control, especially START I and II, Nzo called for a START III or equivalent, indicating that it was time for the other nuclear-weapon states to get involved. While welcoming UNSC 984 (1995), South Africa supported the NAM demand for an international treaty on security assurances. Support was given for nuclear cooperation, nuclear weapon free zones, especially the proposed African NWFZ, and strengthened safeguards, calling for greater transparency from the nuclear-weapon states. In conclusion, Nzo emphasised that 'the South African experience - namely that security is provided by nuclear disarmament rather than by nuclear proliferation - is a telling one: not only for the "threshold" states, but also for the "acknowledged" weapon states.'

Initial reaction to South Africa's statement was mixed. Many Northern states responded with relief (that South Africa had decided to embrace indefinite extension) and interest. US and UK officials characterised the speech as 'constructive', France provided 'interesting: we shall have to see', while the early reaction of a senior Russian official was to condemn it as 'tantamount to conditions.' Within a day, however, the Russians (after discussions with their P-5 counterparts) seemed to have shifted to a more positive approach. Ambassador Dhanapala recognised in it the seeds from which consensus could be built.

The NAM, however, were deeply divided. A few openly castigated it as 'a betrayal'. Others argued that US pressure and the white-dominated nuclear industry had won out. At least initially, the principles and strengthened review ideas were dismissed as 'window dressing'. Following South Africa's statement to the Fourth PrepCom, many had expected that it would back a long term rolling extension. At the Fourth PrepCom, South Africa, a new member of the Non-Aligned Movement, had argued for extension 'consistent with the idea of constant review of the NPT', appearing most interested in a rolling extension in which a positive vote is taken to move to each succeeding period, saying that this best conformed with the intention of Article X.2, that parties can 'decide whether the Treaty shall continue in force...' pending its full implementation. Though the statement did not explicitly advocate a particular option, it is understood that South Africa tried for a time to win more NAM backing for a 25 year rolling extension. Less than 25 years, according to sources, was unacceptable - too short to provide the security and stability for the non-proliferation regime which South Africa regarded as essential. When these efforts among the NAM proved unsuccessful, and with the pressure of almost weekly demarches from the US and others, South Africa assessed the situation, and less than a month before the NPT Conference came to its decision.

Sri Lanka and Mexico

South Africa had expected its contribution to be only one among a number of constructive proposals for strengthening the Treaty's implementation. As it turned out, only two other countries addressed this question directly: Sri Lanka and Mexico. Sri Lanka had also spoken of the need for the Treaty 'to be responsive to the continually evolving challenges of peace and security', describing it as a 'road map'. Noting that the IAEA and UN Security Council have non-NPT membership or are not open to all NPT parties, Sri Lanka proposed 'an institution' based on the treaty regimes of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention to address NPT compliance. This was understood to mean a Standing Committee of some kind, which Sri Lanka averred would not require amendment to the NPT. Sri Lanka suggested that the 1995 Review Conference should initiate a feasibility study of this, for consideration at a future Review Conference, but the idea seemed to get lost in the volume of statements. Of the few who noted this suggestion, the main comment was that such a study would delay setting up any kind of committee until the next Review Conference.

Mexico had submitted a Conference document, proposing that it be annexed to any extension decision. This became the basis for the Mexican draft resolution (L.1), which was first circulated without a decision on extension. By 5 May, seeing the way the wind blew (and under considerable US pressure), Mexico amended its draft resolution with the decision that the NPT 'shall remain in force indefinitely.' Mexico's intention was to attach to the extension decision a series of recommendations on CTBT, Fissban, security assurances, IAEA safeguards, nuclear disarmament, and 'criteria for strengthening the review mechanism of the Treaty'. For strengthening the review, Mexico proposed continuing the five year Review Conferences provided for in Article VIII (3), but including some kind of intersessional mechanism 'to conduct negotiations on specific items.' L.1/Rev.1 further proposed that the review process should 'seek to establish specific objectives for attaining full compliance with each and every provision of the Treaty and its preamble, including, whenever possible, the setting of goals with a specific time-frame.'

President's Consultations

Following South African Foreign Minister Nzo's speech, informal bilateral meetings were held between South Africa and various delegations, including Sri Lanka and Mexico. At the same time, the President of the Conference, Ambassador Dhanapala, was taking soundings from a wide number of delegations, on their extension preference and on the idea of concrete recommendations for strengthening the Treaty's review and implementation. These, he said later, revealed i) there was a majority for indefinite extension, ii) that most of those wanted indefinite extension 'plus a lot more - and that lot more was in the direction of nuclear disarmament' and iii) they wanted consensus. As a result of the responses, he pulled together a group of 'Friends of the President' for informal consultations. Eventually 25 key states were participating in the President's Consultations, including: the P-5, South Africa, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Sweden, and Venezuela. This was a smaller group than the President's 38-member General Committee, which assists in running the Conference, but contained a regional and political balance of what were judged to be the most important players. They in turn undertook to consult with members of their groups outside the President's Consultations. Restricting the numbers enabled Ambassador Dhanapala to keep the negotiations tight and focused, and where possible to build some cross-border alliances.

The Consultations took as their basis a draft 'Declaration of Principles for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament' circulated during the second week by South Africa. This consisted of seven sections with 23 principles on: non-proliferation, universality, safeguards, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, nuclear disarmament and nuclear weapon free zones, as well as a review proposal. Ambassador Dhanapala decided to separate the review component from the principles, and sought agreement on the review as early as possible. At this time, South Africa was thinking along the lines of a meeting to be held before the first PrepCom for the Sixth Review Conference in the year 2000. Lawyers from the nuclear-weapon states and others argued for the intersessional body to be a PrepCom of the NPT Review Conference, rather than a new committee, which they said might require amendment of the Treaty. South Africa and others were prepared to agree if it was underlined that the purpose was to be substantive and not merely procedural and administrative, as associated with past PrepComs.

By the middle of the third week, a draft on strengthening the review was being circulated that proposed at least three PrepComs, beginning in 1997, charged with considering the principles and making recommendations for full implementation. Following the collapse of the Bandung opposition, Indonesia submitted a paper on 8 May on behalf of the 'like-minded group of states' of the NAM, which extended the PrepComs from one week to ten working days and described their purpose, in addition to procedural preparations for the next Review Conference thus: 'to identify specific objectives to promote the full implementation of the Treaty.' The objectives, which Indonesia wanted to be inserted into the review decision as well as the Principles document, were as follows: CTBT, legally binding security assurances, a ban on the production and elimination of stockpiling of fissile materials for weapons purposes, elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, establishment of NWFZs, and the unimpeded and non-discriminatory transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, as well as universality. The Indonesian proposal was hard fought. Some of the Northern states objected to insertion of a set of objectives into the review decision, arguing that they duplicated the ground already covered by the Principles. Some states argued that a two week (in effect) PrepCom held four years out of five would be prohibitively expensive, while others supported Indonesia's position that this would provide time for more substantive debate and negotiations. After some tense negotiations and long distance calls to Ali Alatas (who by this time was in Canada), Indonesia was persuaded to drop the list of objectives from the review proposal, in return for including 'objectives' with the South African Principles, as well as a rearrangement of priorities and a firming of language on some of the issues. It was also agreed that both the extension decision and the review decision would contain explicit references to the agreement on Principles and Objectives, thereby binding all three more closely together. In one of the most important changes to the old system it was also emphasised that review conferences 'should look forward as well as back...and identify the areas in which, and the means through which, further progress should be sought in the future.'

Meanwhile, negotiations were continuing on the Principles, with the sections on nuclear disarmament particularly hard fought. As Main Committee I became bogged down, the nuclear-weapon states and others engaged their senior diplomats in the President's Consultations. South Africa's original draft had been moderate, aiming to attract agreement rather than present its own particular wish-list. Some states, including Iran and Indonesia, submitted their own written proposals, while others argued their points as issues came up for debate. By the process of negotiation, some sections became further watered down, while others were firmed up a little. Some of the nuclear-weapon delegations had to persuade their capitals of the need to give more than they were originally intending. China and France managed to prevent a commitment to abjure all nuclear testing and adhere to testing moratoria, pushed by Mexico and others, settling instead for 'utmost restraint', a weasel term used in a previous UNGA resolution. They also managed to dilute the commitment to sign a CTBT in 1996 to 'completion...no later than 1996'. But France, for example, had never made any commitment to a specific date, and was reluctant to do so. With the non-nuclear-weapon states pushing hard for 1996 as a minimum requirement (a date already identified by the US Congress and evoked by China), France finally agreed.

This was the only target date in the document. The other Principles were more general, a cross between a summarised review document and a restatement of expectations and understandings. Since the NPT itself had been very brief and unspecific, the latter was a way of giving agreed flesh to the Treaty articles. South Africa had been closely and intensively involved throughout the consultations, although Ambassador Dhanapala had taken over responsibility for negotiating the draft principles and review. Altercations between South Africa and Indonesia, which wanted to replace the term 'principles' with 'objectives', at one point threatened to disrupt the emerging agreement. A compromise was reached, referring to Principles and Objectives, and later in paragraph 4 of the decision on strengthening the review process, to 'principles, objectives and ways'. Such is diplomacy. Nevertheless, it was clear from the heavyweights inside and the crowded corridors adjacent, that the President's Consultations were 'where it was at'.

As Main Committee I degenerated into futile wrangling with proliferating brackets, senior members of delegations in the President's Consultations spent more time there than in the review Committees. In particular, the Drafting Committee and Main Committee I suffered from a paucity of senior diplomats with decision-making authority. Although the intention was for states participating in the Consultations to inform their fellow group members of progress, as negotiations intensified in the final week, representatives from the 'outsider' delegations were to be seen waiting with the NGOs for the Consultation doors to open, in order to glean the latest news.

The Like-Minded States

Negotiations over the Indonesian proposal on behalf of the 'like-minded states' became crucial. From the point of view of NAM opposition to indefinite extension, the meeting of NAM Ministers held in Bandung, 25-27 April, had been a disaster. The NAM's traditional leadership had finally agreed to unite behind a rolling extension of 25 year fixed periods and attempted to impose this on the 97 (out of 112) NAM members attending the Bandung Conference. But it was far too late, for a significant number of NAM states had already declared their backing for indefinite extension. Although South Africa was blamed by some for masterminding the resistance, it was rather Benin, backed by a number of other African countries, which spearheaded the opposition to the NAM resolution in Bandung. The Conference collapsed in disarray, with no agreement other than the familiar list of six issues and a decision that the NPT should be 'extended in accordance with the options provided in paragraph 2 of Article X...'.

Indonesia and a few other NAM states formed the 'like-minded' group and by 2 May was circulating a resolution based on the abortive Bandung proposal. There was early confusion regarding its sponsors, with Egypt and Iraq initially included and then withdrawn, because they were not prepared to endorse a long extension. The resolution, which became L.3, was eventually supported by 11 states: the DPRK, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Zimbabwe. It proposed an extension of 'rolling fixed periods of 25 years', with a Review and Extension Conference at the end of each fixed period. The next period would follow automatically unless the majority of the parties to the Treaty were to otherwise. This was, in effect, the negative-mechanism 'Bunn-Van Doren' rolling extension option. There is some irony in this, since at the Fourth PrepCom South Africa had put forward arguments for a rolling extension with a positive mechanism, i.e. requiring a positive vote to move into each successive period, a tougher proposition altogether.

Recognising by the end of the third week that indefinite extension was inevitable, Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas, flew into New York for discussions with various delegations, including Conference President Dhanapala. The proposal from the 'like-minded group' on strengthening the Review, submitted on 8 May, was one concrete result of the visit. This was the final year of Indonesia's leadership of the NAM before handing on to Colombia. Ali Alatas's intention was undoubtedly to salvage something from the wreckage of the NAM strategy for the NPT Conference.

If the Treaty were to be made permanent, the NAM would have to seek the strongest means of maintaining pressure in the absence of the extension leverage they had sought. Together with this realisation came the understanding that the President's Consultations on the South African Principles were the only solid game in town. At the same time, the President of the Conference wanted to avoid a divisive vote, and many Northern states recognised that forcing through indefinite extension on the numbers alone would likely turn out a pyrrhic victory, weakening the Treaty's authority in the long run. Though they were certain of their majority, the deadlock over voting procedures left them nervous as to whether a vote would work out positively. The weakness of the NAM was acknowledged but few delegations wanted to rub their noses in it, (though the British Ambassador was credited in The Independent with some triumphalist rhetoric at the end of the third week, about whether they would show 'magnanimity'). There was therefore a strong desire by many in the Consultations to accommodate as much of Indonesia's proposal as possible. In turn, Indonesia's suggestions for linking the three resolutions by cross references in their texts provided a mechanism by which the decisions on the review and principles would become inextricable from the decision on extending the Treaty, the importance of which will be discussed later.

Canada's Role

Early in the Conference, Canada began circulating a resolution with the simple wording: 'The Conference of States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, held in accordance with Article X.2 of the Treaty, decides that the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely.' The aim was to collect sufficient signatures to demonstrate a majority for indefinite extension. By the middle of the third week, the Canadian resolution was still short of 90 co-sponsors, the magic majority number. The reasons for this are revealing. The majority existed, but a number of delegations, including Northern states such as Sweden and New Zealand, delayed signing until the very end. Some states said they objected to the way the resolution was being used. It was shrouded in secrecy, with rumours that Canada refused to show the full list until a state had itself signed on as sponsor, and some irritation among Western group members that even they were not to be told the tally each day. Others privately voiced concerns of how the resolution might be employed to pre-empt the review negotiations or discussions on the South African Principles, and to corner the NAM states.

Only as the 5 May deadline approached, did Canada reach and pass the required number, with 104 sponsors (the Philippines added itself at the final moment, with a combative speech that criticised the bargaining and called for a more binding review process). Others which advocated indefinite extension, including South Africa, never signed, underlining that their commitment hinged on acceptance of mechanisms for strengthening review and implementation of the Treaty. In this context, Mexico's resolution (once it decided on indefinite extension) stood as a wild card (and to keep the pressure up). If the President's Consultations on the Review and Principles had collapsed, there were a significant number of states parties which would have preferred the Mexican resolution - indefinite plus recommendations - to the bald Canadian option. Recognising this, some Western delegates, including nuclear-weapon states, lobbied hard against Mexico's resolution, equating it with conditions which, if not fulfilled, could threaten the stability of the Treaty.

The Arab Proposal

As was clear from their statements in the General Debate and in the Main Committees, the Arab States had decided to make universality - and particularly the necessity for Israel to dismantle its nuclear weapons, put its nuclear facilities under safeguards and accede to the NPT - their single priority. Some had publicly announced that they could not support indefinite extension as long as Israel remained outside the NPT, others (Libya and Syria) had said they could not support any extension without Israel's accession, while a number remained non-committal on the question of extension, but emphasised Middle East security concerns. None of them gave backing to indefinite extension - not even Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, despite the privately expressed confidence of some US officials. Instead, they submitted a draft resolution on the Middle East, which became L.7. This noted various UN Security Council resolutions and statements, the provisions in the NPT for NWFZs and dangers to security from nuclear proliferation and weapons of mass destruction. It expressed deep concern over Israel's unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, and then: i) called on Israel to accede without delay to the NPT; ii) called on all states in the Middle East to take practical steps to establish there a zone free of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their delivery systems; iii) called on all NPT parties to exert their utmost efforts to achieve the zone free of weapons of mass destruction; and iv) invited the nuclear-weapon states to grant security assurances to states in the region party to the NPT.

The initial negotiations on this resolution were among states of the Arab League and a number of other interested parties, including the P-5. The US had reportedly promised Israel that it would not be singled out for condemnation. Certainly the US resisted all attempts to do this. A counter proposal, to name all states in the region which were not parties to the Treaty, prompted objections from Oman, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates, who argued that they should not be lumped in with Israel, since they had no nuclear facilities to worry about. As negotiations proceeded, the resolution got diluted to the extent that some Arab states refused to sponsor it. Nevertheless, they wanted a decision of the Conference on this issue. Half way through the final week, the Arab states had hit stalemate, and asked Ambassador Dhanapala to take over the negotiations. The compromise that was achieved was to accept a much milder resolution but give it greater authority and weight through sponsorship by the three depositary states, Russia, the UK and the US. Russia had some difficulties, but with time running out, was persuaded of the necessity to meet the Arab states' concerns in this way. The modified resolution added to the original resolution's preamble an endorsement of the aims of the Middle East peace process, including efforts to establish a NWFZ there. Stigmatising Israel by name was avoided by means of referencing the relevant sections of the report of Main Committee III and calling on 'all states of the Middle East that have not yet done so, without exception, to accede to the Treaty as soon as possible...'. Apart from a last minute flutter on the morning of 11 May, when Iran held up proceedings over language supporting the Middle East peace process, the resolution was then agreed.

The Arab states had won a significant victory by having this separate resolution on the Middle East sponsored by the depositary states and accepted by the Conference without a vote. The device of quoting the relevant section of a Main Committee report set a precedent, all the more interesting because the Committee reports were not incorporated in an agreed Final Declaration, although the sections concerned had the consensus of Main Committee III.

Taking the Decisions

Notwithstanding the many reservations, Canada's resolution formed a kind of partnership with South Africa's proposal in creating the conditions for acceptance of Ambassador Dhanapala's 'politically binding package'. By demonstrating the majority for indefinite extension, Canada forced the NAM to seek leverage within that context, thereby enabling Ambassador Dhanapala to broker the deals that won their acquiescence, if not full consensus.

The President's first draft of the extension resolution, dated 7 May, had a four paragraph preamble with: 'decides, by consensus, that in terms of Article X.2 a majority exists among states parties for the indefinite extension of the Treaty and the Treaty shall accordingly continue in force indefinitely.' This met with opposition, principally from NAM states who objected to use of the word consensus. Some lawyers also considered the wording contradictory. It was therefore reworked to: 'decides that, as a majority exists among States party to the Treaty for its indefinite extension, in accordance with its article X.2, the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely.' The preamble of this extension decision contained explicit reference to universal adherence, attainment of the 'ultimate goals of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons' and emphasis on the decisions on strengthening the review and the Principles and Objectives agreements.

Its adoption, just after midday on Thursday 11 May, was a moment of some intensity. Apologising for a two-hour delay, Ambassador Dhanapala opened with a gentle joke, referring to 'high noon...to intensify the drama of the occasion.' The President introduced the first three resolutions: L4 on Strengthening the Review Process for the Treaty; L5 on Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament; and L6 on Extension of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The Conference first decided to take the package of three draft decisions without a vote. Then Ambassador Dhanapala took separate decisions on each resolution in turn, bringing the gavel down promptly as no objections were made to any of them. It was done. There was a moment of silence, then applause.

The resolutions from Mexico, Canada and the 11 like-minded states were subsequently dropped. In introducing the resolution on the Middle East, Dhanapala asked Conference for agreement to waive a 24 hour rule. This, combined with the delay, suggests that it was deemed important to the Arab States to have the decision taken at the same time -though it was not part of the same package - as the extension decisions. After presenting an oral amendment (the result of the last-minute deliberations with Iran), the President brought his gavel swiftly down on the Middle East resolution, which also passed without a vote.

Immediate Response

There then followed 24 speeches, many of which seemed intended to distance the states concerned from the decisions just taken. Syria went first, saying that indefinite extension meant that the 'loopholes and shortcomings' of the Treaty would now only be able to be remedied 'through the good faith' of the nuclear-weapon states. Malaysia wanted to emphasise that the indefinite extension of the NPT did not have consensus. Nigeria wanted to put on record its 'inability to support the indefinite extension of the Treaty'. Egypt said that the method used to achieve indefinite extension 'was neither the best nor the most successful and that it may have negative consequences'. Iraq said it would have voted against indefinite extension because 'such an extension procedure is unprecedented in the annals of international law', which would seem to be a criticism of the 1968 decision rather than of making a treaty permanent, which is quite usual. Libya announced that it was 'completely and absolutely opposed' to NPT extension 'for one or more periods, let alone an indefinite extension.' As anticipated, for Syria, Jordan, Iran, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Libya, the outstanding issue remained Israel. They considered that the Conference and its decisions had not adequately addressed Israel's nuclear programme and Middle East security concerns. Despite his criticism of the process, however, Egypt's Ambassador Elaraby made certain to underline that 'the four decisions adopted today, considered as a package, reflect the interests and priorities of the parties to the NPT' (italics added).

On the other hand, China considered its advocacy of a 'smooth extension' to have been successful, saying that the Treaty and its objectives of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear cooperation for peaceful uses had been reaffirmed. France, speaking on behalf of the EU and six associated states, said that extension had been successful because 'each and every one of us has shown a keen sense of responsibility', pointing out that assuring the future of the non-proliferation regime was 'our best opportunity to get the accessions we need to make the Treaty universal.' Japan 'heartily welcomed' the decisions, which Kenya called 'the best way forward.' Canadian Ambassador Christopher Westdal was euphoric, promising that the states parties had made themselves 'more deeply accountable for... [the] Treaty's values and the fulfilment of its obligations.' Laos applauded this 'major historic event'. In welcoming the decisions, Bangladesh underlined that they constituted a 'permanent gauge of accountability'. South Africa said the decision made the Treaty stronger, providing checks and balances and a 'yardstick' (which metaphor had sadly been dropped from the final version of the Principles and Objectives).

Several states which had originally opposed indefinite extension chose to highlight positive interpretations of the decisions, once taken. Algeria referred to the 'intensive and rich debate' at the Conference, and its renewal of the commitments on nuclear disarmament and peaceful cooperation. Tanzania spoke of its 'understandable reluctance' to join the compromise but hoped that 'all commitments which constitute the integral part of the Treaty will be fully respected and implemented.' In particular, Tanzania challenged the nuclear-weapon states to 'allay our fears by enhancing the credibility of the non-proliferation regime with a binding commitment to eliminate all their nuclear arsenals within an agreed time frame.' Indonesia emphasised that the three decisions were of 'equal importance and constituted a package', reminding the states parties of the decision that review conferences 'should look forward as well as back'. Belize raised the prospect that failure to meet the commitments 'to nuclear sanity' might lead to a disengagement from what it characterised as 'a solid legal trusteeship of global security.' Mexico expressed satisfaction that the decisions had incorporated some of the recommendations made in their draft resolution, and underlined the necessity for 'accelerating the nuclear-disarmament process with a view to abolishing these weapons of mass destruction as a matter of urgency'. Costa Rica was pleased to be part of the 'consensus' relating to the decisions, but underlined that none of the provisions or decisions should be interpreted as 'recognising, directly or indirectly, the legality of the use, the threat of use or the possession' of nuclear weapons. In a shrewd speech, Ambassador Sirous Nasseri of Iran characterised the decisions as amounting to 'the conditional indefinite extension' of the NPT, noting that 'complete elimination of nuclear weapons should become reality through the envisaged programme of action' and reiterating that the Treaty would be undermined unless universal adherence were achieved. Having failed to make substantial progress on its objective to replace the export control regime, Iran merely reiterated its demands in that respect. Describing the Principles and strengthened review agreements as 'sugar coated mechanisms to make [indefinite extension] more palatable', the Philippines, which had co-sponsored the Canadian resolution, considered that the price paid for it was 'a bit high', particularly noting the lack of universality and the failure to specify 'how, when and under what implementation framework' Article VI would be fulfilled.

Almost all the delegations, from all regions and political perspectives, paid tribute to the skill and moral authority with which the Conference President, Ambassador Dhanapala, had steered them to this outcome, avoiding a divisive vote.

The extension decision had been taken, but the Conference was not yet over. Positions were hardening over aspects of the review, with only 24 hours left to agree a Final Declaration.

© 1995 The Acronym Institute.